What does it take to design and implement a LEED Platinum Building? What does LEED have in common with WELL Building? What is Sick Building Syndrome? And, how can we design more sustainability?
We look at the CODE for sustainable design through the lens of a new building in Charlottesville, VA: CODE, Center for Developing Entrepreneurs. Guests include Eskew Dumez Ripple architects, Tyler Guidroz and Kelsey Wotila. As well as sustainability consultant Sydney Covey of STRUCTR Advisors (Virginia Beach Virginia).
One thing is guaranteed with this episode, you WILL learn something new and surprising to help you think of design and the spaces we occupy in a new, fresh light.
Special thanks to the sponsor of this episode, Resource Lighting + Controls, representing over 100 brands of architectural lighting in the Hampton Road Virginia Area. Visit their line card at www.resourceltg.com/line-card
Tyler Guidroz 0:00
The climate crisis that we're that we're facing, can sometimes feel really daunting buildings contribute 40% of annual emissions. So we have not only a huge burden and a huge responsibility, but a huge opportunity to change that number as architects.
Jennifer Scheffel 0:21
What does it really take to design and execute a LEED platinum building? Today we're talking with Sidney Covey of STRUCTR Advisors. That's S-T-R-U-C-T-R Advisors in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and architects Tyler Guidroz and Kelsey Wotila of Eskew Dumez Ripple and architectural firm out of New Orleans, Louisiana. We'll be talking about a brand new building in Charlottesville, Virginia called CODE: Center for Developing Entrepreneurs. This is Jennifer Scheffel. And you're listening to Maker's Speak.
Thank you all for being here today. I'm so excited to talk about sustainability, LEED, WELL building and the project you all worked on together CODE, the Center for Developing Entrepreneurs. Sydney, I'd like to start with you. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and STRUCTR?
Sydney Covey 1:18
Sure. I'm Sydney Covey. I'm the Sustainability Solutions Manager at STRUCTR Advisors. My role inside of STRUCTR is really helping clients navigate where they are in sustainability wherever that means if it means Net Zero building if it means adding a solar panel for the first time we walk hand in hand on that journey and meet them where they are on that journey to incorporating sustainability in their projects. We're helping everybody from owners, architects, contractors, subcontractors, subcontractor manufacture hybrids like custom woodwork, we try to be that trusted resource. A little bit more about STRUCTR Advisors. As a firm, we became a company after seeing a need for a really concentrated aggregated place for services supporting the construction industry in the built environment.
Jennifer Scheffel 2:05
And how are you related to Oregon construction.
Sydney Covey 2:07
So Mark Hourigan was the mastermind behind the creation of STRUCTR Advisors. So three and a half years ago, Mark saw this need in the marketplace. And really, like I said, the trusted advisor component was really what rose to the top before I moved over to STRUCTR Advisors
I was handling the sustainability for organ construction. So any kind of construction process that had anything to do with any kind of certification like LEED, or Living Building Challenge, I was right there as a dedicated resource to all the projects that Oregon was pursuing and actively building I had the opportunity to work on really, really great projects like the Brock Environmental Center, which is the 10th living building in the world. And as one of my first projects out of the gate, and that was probably you know why I've suited well, coming over to STRUCTR Advisors with Mark Hourigan really can have a unique perspective on the built environment from the contractor lens and what it means to be sustainable from that perspective.
Jennifer Scheffel 3:04
Can you repeat that about the Brock center? It is the
Sydney Covey 3:06
10th living building in the world.
Jennifer Scheffel 3:09
Interesting. It's right. It's right down the street. Yeah. I didn't. I didn't realize that. That's pretty amazing. Kelsey, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Kelsey Wotila 3:22
My name is Kelsey Woltila. I'm an architect at Eskew Dumez Ripple. We're a firm in New Orleans have about 50 people. And I joined about two years ago as a research fellow, which is a program the firm does to invest in research and development within architecture and provide opportunity to deep dive and gain a knowledge base on a particular topic in architecture. I studied paths to carbon zero, which was about operational and embodied carbon of buildings, and ran a couple case studies of a portfolio sample of the firm's projects. After staying with the firm for a year as a research fellow got a job as a full time architects staff member.
Jennifer Scheffel 4:09
That brings us to Tyler Can you introduce yourself?
Tyler Guidroz 4:12
I'm Tyler Guidroz. I'm an associate an architect at Eskew Dumez Ripple. I grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, and had the opportunity to go to study architecture at Tulane fell in love with the city of New Orleans. There's no other place that I want to live. Growing up the work of sq do miserable has been sort of in the background of my life in Southwest Louisiana. They have a number of really nice buildings in in my hometown. And it was a real great opportunity to join the firm in 2017 and add my time talent and energy to pursuing the building of community that we that we do at our office.
Jennifer Scheffel 4:56
You mentioned to me in a previous conversation that EDRs location in new Orleans really lends itself to their sustainability philosophy. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Tyler Guidroz 5:07
Yeah, sure. So one of the things that I, that I appreciate about where I go to work every day is the things that we're focused on. And in the city in general, studying architecture in New Orleans, you're, you're in you're steeped in this history, and you're constantly engaged in a dialogue between past and present, Eskew Dumez Ripple is, you know, committed to contemporary approaches to solving our problems through the built environment, while at the same time knitting in and working with and resonating against what's been built before. It's something that's unavoidable in New Orleans. And I think it it really enriches the work that we do, I think it's a necessary thing. And it, it has a symbiotic effect of, of teasing out the best parts about why things were built the way that they were, and have lasted for as long the buildings that have lasted for as long as they have, why their loves, why they're cherished, really studying that, and filtering through the lens of what it means to build today. The firm has grown, obviously, through Katrina, especially in the attitude of resilience as becoming grained in what we do. So we, we look at sustainability, a lot of times from the lens of resilience, what does it mean, to take one step back from the building itself, and take a look at how it fits in with its with its environment, how it responds to what we see as a changing environment, and how it can be set up to thrive for years to come.
Jennifer Scheffel 6:51
Tyler, the philosophy that you've laid out is really a great segue into my next question, which is on the topic of CODE, being the project that brought you all together. CODE is a brand new building in Charlottesville, Virginia. And as I was preparing for our conversation today, I was speaking with Sidney who told me that the owner had serious concerns regarding sick building syndrome. Apparently, the old building that the owner was in needed serious abatement. Maybe employees suffered from sick building syndrome. I'm not really quite sure of the story. I'm hoping you can expound on that a bit.
Tyler Guidroz 7:35
Yeah, so their office was not on the site. But I think what you're asking about was their office, the client for this project, their previous office, they were suffering from, what we what we term is sick building syndrome. It's a loose term, it's kind of difficult to pin down things that have definite causes are called other things. But the building industry and the EPA even understands that there's, there's something that happens to people sometimes in buildings where they they just don't feel right. itchy, watery eyes, feelings of fatigue, rashes, nausea, even headaches. It's, it's this loose conglomeration called Sick Building Syndrome. When that person walks outside, they suddenly start to feel better. And so the client, when they imagined this project, they were working in an office where this was really a debilitating issue. And they had run tests, they had looked for mold, they had kind of really tried a lot of things. And so this was at the front of their minds whenever they were thinking about this new space for themselves. This was one of their top priorities is that the sick building syndrome that they were experiencing in their space needed to be remedied in their new space.
Jennifer Scheffel 9:04
Oh, okay. I understand. So the owner had experience in a previous building was sick building syndrome. So building the new building, I can understand his objective to have a healthy building. As an architect, what types of things are you looking at to ensure that the owner gets that healthy building that he needs?
Tyler Guidroz 9:29
So the biggest thing when we started the project, having this as a key objective was looking at the mechanical system, how you help remedy sick building syndrome is sort of twofold. You make sure that there's adequate ventilation in the building, so that new fresh air is being brought in and if there's something bad in the air, it doesn't stay there long. And the second sort of prong to the approach is picking good materials for the inside of the building is that's low VOCs. Or, no VOCs in the materials...and I guess someone else can speak to this better.
Sydney Covey 10:06
Yeah, I mean, I was gonna say so from my perspective, STRUCTR became involved in CODE as Hourigan's construction partner and sustainability consultant for the entire projec. I remember being asked to jump on the team, and it was, they're going to build this building in Charlottesville. And it's going to have crazy amount of sustainability built in We were really nervous about, you know, the requirements for really safe building materials, and what that's going to mean in terms of documenting that and track tracking all that information.
STRUCTR really became involved to ensure that that process went really well and wasn't prohibiting construction from actually happening on site and schedule. And that we didn't really have an idea of what this meant from Project beginning to project and and how we were going to see it through how we were going to review all of these materials for all of these requirements, and still maintain project schedule and compliance, you know, oh, by the way, we're going after LEED certification too. So it's not just one piece of the equation, it's really the whole pie there. (We were successful because; Number one, it was a committed project team, the not just the EDR team, but the other partner, with Ackerman, Hourigan, we were all on board with this piece of the pie. That said, we understand that our owners were really sensitive to this, and we're going to make sure that we are unwavering from that commitment we've committed to them. And so that means that every trade partner, every manufacturer, every vendor that we work with, is going to also be that committed.
One of the things that we did was that we drafted a letter that stated that intention, and that we were going to be unwavering from it. So if you had a material that wasn't compliant, we were going to go somewhere else and find a material that was and there were a bunch of times, we got down to it. And there were some custom materials, there are lots of finishes that ended up being very specific to our project where we could, we weren't going to sacrifice what we had already committed to our owner from day one. And I would say that, that also lended itself well to having really robust specifications. I mean, I remember opening the CODE specs, or one of the first times and just seeing all of the language around sustainability and like my heart, gosh, because I just loved having all this detail. My job is to take all of this detail and translate it to subcontractors who are inside of one specific section. And they really need to know what it is that they need to provide so it can be approved, so they can use it.
I have to help them distill that. And the clearer it is from the specs and what's been writing these years for me to communicate that to them. Having every materials, you know, requirements really spelled out in black and white really helped me turn that over to the subcontractors and say, This is exactly what we're looking for. So then they could take that to their manufacturers and say this, these are the requirements you have to meet. Here's a letter from the team saying we're not going to waver from it. And we're going to work through that. And then I would say, after those spec specifications, came a really, really robust submittal review process. Tyler, Kelsey and I have gotten round and round a million times on, you couldn't believe how many times we had to review a paint submittal you know, that paints a metal was probably 400 500 pages by the end of it every single piece in part and it wasn't just paint, I mean, we were up to we're probably up to I would say almost 5000 gallons of wet Applied Materials. Paints, coatings, adhesives, anything that comes in a can or a tube, anything like that, we had to review individually.
And as a part of the whole system. You know, it wasn't just like it had to meet these requirements for a healthy product. But it also had to meet the project requirements. So it wasn't just one piece of the pie. We couldn't sacrifice on performance. I mean, we had to talk to so many factories time and time again. "Do you have a product that would meet this...but it doesn't meet LEED. So if doesn't meet the requirements that we have? Will it through the process?" Yes, it was labor intensive and a lot of ways but, you know, that's we got to the end, we're like, well, we've done it like we have, we've executed it right, like we've gotten all of these materials. And we know that our client has a safe place. That did also include a lot of conversations with a lot of manufacturers who had never had this type of asked before. You know, they may have said, "yeah, we have a couple of low VOC paints or coatings... yeah..., "No, no, we're looking for some very specific requirements. And we want it for every single product, not just one or two, but every single product that you're going to provide to us."
We had (to do) a lot of education and a lot of "can you test for this? Is this something that you know, is in your wheelhouse? Will it be in your wheelhouse?" When we started reviewing products, we were still a year and a half to two years out from installing it on the site. Some of the products that weren't compliant in the very beginning of the project because they didn't have the right emissions evaluation reports that were looking for, for the for some of the materials. (Manufacturers were like) "yeah, we can go ahead and test we may have the report back before we actually install it." So we spent some time waiting on a couple of those kinds of conversations to naturally evolve; for manufacturers to say "we're going to step up to the plate as the manufacturers to ensure that, you know, we're meeting your requirements,." obviously, that helps them in a multitude of ways.
I mean, I think it was through all of those things that we were able to accomplish that goal and like that Between a really high, highly designed, beautiful building, and all the requirements to number one, keep the building safe and keep our clients you know, mindset at the very front of ours, you know ours headspace is we're reviewing products and not just a paint submittal, or it's not just a steel submittal we're looking at every single thing, and really staying focused on that. They were all unwavering. When we had to make really tough decisions about products that maybe cost a little bit more there was that trade off, everything has comes at a price. And sometimes the alternative material that was far healthier and more sustainable was a little bit more expensive. But they were unwavering from that. They understood that and they were willing to make up for that cost difference. So they were willing to go the extra mile. And you know, in some projects, everybody has this, like, really great goal, like day one, they're like, Yeah, we're gonna go for everything we're gonna shoot for the moon, we have all these great requirements. And they get into the weeds and get thick into it. And they're like, no, like, just get the thing done, we are not we are ready to just get it built and occupied, like just tell me when that's going to be done. And our owners were really, really really unwavering from that they were on this we are, we understand that this is going to take time, this middle is going to take time.
Jennifer Scheffel 16:12
So the overarching theme is a tremendous amount of patience,
Syndney Covey 16:17
patience, and collaboration.
Jennifer Scheffel 16:20
I feel like you mentioned so many things in that, that I want to unpack some of it. I want to talk a little bit about how you maintain momentum through the process of LEED. And, why you chose LEED, versus WELL Building, since it was really the health of the building that was so attractive. Maybe Kelsey wants to jump in.
Kelsey Wotila 16:40
I'll let Sydney start with that I'm I'm chewing on Okay, things she just spoke about to make cake, right.
Sydney Covey 16:49
So, LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is really, I think one of the most holistic, green building rating systems out there. It's one of the best for really looking at not just the project, but the project's impact on the community. And not just the project's impact on the community. But the contractors impact on the project and the community surrounding that project, and the occupy the building's impact on the occupant. And I think it really makes for a collaborative approach to sustainability. We started out of the gate looking at where are we citing the building and how it impacts the community? And then what happens when the occupants are in that building? How do they get connected to different services and sport, and then it goes into the the regular things like energy and water use and consumption and why that all matters, right?
We're always constantly challenging that. And what is the norm, the baseline versus what we can achieve and really pressed against. And I think that that really fit the bill for a project of this caliber. And I can speak to a little bit of WELL, because we did you know, two years ago, when we started on this project, we were really heavily looking at WELL, we were like, really excited to lean into it. One of the things about WELL, and one of the things about CODE is that we were pursuing LEED certification for the core and shell, which meant that we were only looking at things that our developer CSH development had control over which included all the major mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and the fire life safety and those things. And it meant common spaces, but they didn't have control over the design and construction of the tenant fitouts. So we didn't know what type of office spaces they were going to be how many occupants are those kinds of things. And one of the best things about the WELL rating system is that it is occupant focused. It is what is the building, really, really doing to the occupant and the occupant experience. So it really wouldn't have been effective for us to put in all of these standards and designs for occupants. We didn't know existed would exist or could exist. And so we really didn't want to hinder incoming tenants from being able to explore what that meant from a WELL building perspective.
Jennifer Scheffel 18:54
Okay, yeah, go ahead, Tyler.
Tyler Guidroz 18:56
I'll say, Yeah, I'll say so you know that that process of starting with the WELL standard and the LEED standard at the same time, it did have an imprint on the project. So the building is nine storeys. The first two storeys are an open lobby, where everyone enters the building and also a co working space, sort of think about it like a "We Work". The overarching idea of the building is this owner invests in a lot of companies, sort of startups, and things like that. And the concept of the building is that this was going to be a home for his company.
But it was also going to be space where startups and maybe startups that he invests in can get in on the ground level, literally the ground level of being lean and being able to get some lightweight co working space and as their company grows, they can grow up in the building, so the upper floors become larger and larger footprint of tenant fit out spaces, they start off small parcels and that become the entire floorplate. So, literally there is the ability to grow up in the building from a business. But also, we were really excited about the opportunity for businesses of all different levels of development to be in the same building this weaves into the LEED some of the WELL initiatives, particularly around vertical circulation and fostering people, people walking around and using the stairs and focusing on using the stairs as attractive elements to promote people walking up or down burning calories and things like that.
So what we've done is we purposefully worked the circulation from injury to the bank of elevators to be just as good as using the stairs, the stairs are highly designed, but also, there's a level of circulation crossing between these different kinds of offices. So to get to the co working, you have to cross and use the same paths that the people use to get to the top floor offices that was sort of started by the wealth initiatives of how can we foster movement around the building, and it ended up being in the Korn shell.
Jennifer Scheffel 21:09
And it seems like it fosters community, not just movement.
Tyler Guidroz 21:12
Right; It's that cross pollination that we ever really excited about.
Kelsey Wotila 21:17
Yeah, so I want to elaborate on that point of the cross pollination that Tyler mentioned with the CODE building. This project really stuck out as uniquely holistic in that it was holistic in every aspect, from design to certification to the review process in the submittal process between the project team and the overall owner goals to the delivery of the building. The architect, ourselves Eskew Dumez Ripple and Wolf Ackerman worked closely together with Sydney, consulting on the LEED aspect of things with Hourigan to make sure that as we approached a single element of LEED, we weren't sacrificing something in another aspect. So we weren't thinking only of energy use as a siloed element. We were thinking of the whole building and how the user would experience it holistically from a visitor to a tenant, and to how the building impacted the compute community as well. So it was really thinking of impact at all scale and sustainability, through multiple principle principles and multiple lenses.
Jennifer Scheffel 22:29
So your client was set for LEED - And is the is the building going to be LEED Gold? LEED platinum? Can you talk a little bit about that? And, and tell me explain the the difference?
Tyler, Kelsey and Sydney 22:42
That's our favorite question.
Sydney Covey 22:45
So we get this question, I think almost every week, and I think I have for the past two and a half years, I'll say that, you know, when I first came on the project, we were tracking platinum. I was like, "Wow, there will be platinum project in Charlottesville, that'll be awesome"! And then you know, every project going through a number of pieces and parts and shaking through the design and really evolving with the construction constructability of the project is like, "Alright, we can get to the goal. We know that very comfortably".
LEED Gold is exactly where we want to land. Once we started talking Tyler, I think Tyler and I, and then eventually, Kelsey, we all got together, we're like "we're really close to platinum. And like, we can push this thing as far as we can get. And we may be able to get to platinum." We've been cautiously optimistic about platinum. And I think it's the lasting joke. I won't say that we're platinum until we hang the plaque on the wall. And because we don't that was never an I was never our intention, really a lot of these things.
The way that we're hopefully going to reach platinum is through our integrated team, as Kelsey said and mentioned, and our unwavering commitment to the sustainability of the project and holistically thinking about things, you know, that we thought, "well, maybe we can't get this". But really, we're already doing it. We didn't even know that this was a part of the LEED process. And we just had naturally evolved, you know, our thinking and what it meant to have a healthy building and a you know, safe building and look where we are, where we've landed,
Jennifer Scheffel 24:11
Break that down a little bit for people like me, who don't know the difference between platinum and gold and what that little extra might be. So get a little granular for me, if you don't mind.
Sydney Covey 24:24
So LEED is broken up into four certification levels and certified silver, gold and platinum. Yeah, you know, we're going from certified to silver and silver to gold, you're talking a couple of key strategies that really have you have to hone in and focus on whether it be energy, whether it be the design of the space, you really really do have to get a little bit more technical. When you go from gold to platinum, you're talking about holistically your project team is committed to an extra level of commitment in terms of sustainability. That means there is no dropping the ball on one credit there is no slacking. There is it's an extension The amount of commitment to every single piece of the pie getting to the sustainability goals that we'd set. So that doesn't just mean you know, the contractor can slack on their requirements, it means that they have to step up and own their piece in that part. That means that the designers committed means the owners can committed to that right, it means that the type of building that they're going to maintain for the next 100 200 years is going to act and feel differently. It's different controls, it's different techniques that may not be a typical building, you're not talking about a typical building, when you go from gold to platinum, in my mind.
Jennifer Scheffel 25:35
Can you give me an example. I mean, a concrete example of something that you would see an a LEED platinum building that you would not see in a LEED Gold.
Tyler Guidroz 25:47
Let's just say, when you're at LEED Platinum, you'll have multiple initiatives at a high performance level. So the biggest credit in LEED, the biggest group of credits and LEED revolves around how the how much energy the building will use, for obvious reasons, we did a comprehensive energy model for this project. And it was, it was iterative, throughout the design and energy consumption touches almost every aspect of how the building is put together. That was one part of from the envelopes to the you know, types of fixtures picked to most importantly, probably the mechanical system, how much energy that draws and how that works with the envelopes. To not let the conditions air leak out.
But that's just one aspect of of what we're doing at CODE, we're also creating a green roof on every level from levels three through nine. And that green roof is planted with native plants. So that's our protect and restore habitat. Fundamentally, the project is sited in downtown Charlottesville, with access to quality transit, we've provided way more than average, I think Kelsey and I are avid bikers. And we've provided tons of opportunities for bike parking in the building and also showering showers on every level so that not only do you have a place to park your bike, but you have a way to change clothes and maybe take a shower is to lower that barrier of entry. We've got a comprehensive set of low flow fixtures on the site. We've got a we've got all LED lights. So I think the city in healthy chime in, I think it's about when you're at platinum, you're not letting any, any one aspect of the initiatives fall off the table.
Jennifer Scheffel 27:40
So Kelsey, what's your take?
Kelsey Wotila 27:41
So with LEED, there's a couple of different ratings you can achieve or certification levels you can achieve. There's certified silver, gold, and platinum. And for all of those, you kind of have to hit across the the multiple credit categories that LEED has so there's always a requirement to think of things like Tyler mentioned, like energy efficiency, and like water and like a sustainable site and good location and transportation. But the difference is within each credit, all of those are scored on a sliding scale. So you could achieve, say, bike racks in location and transportation and get one point. Or you could go to the above and beyond level which this project achieved and get three points. And to me that's more the difference between a gold and platinum building is gold is going to address all of these categories. About the same way as a platinum building will platinum will just take it to the highest possible threshold that you could achieve and do these things that a gold building is doing really well. But do them above and beyond. And that's exactly the core. The core values of this project.
Jennifer Scheffel 28:55
Sydney, you mentioned earlier that a lot of clients initially want a LEED certified building, once they learn what that process is, and maybe you're halfway down the path, they're more interested in finishing the project than actually getting the LEED certification. So my question is, how do you encourage or actually do you even encourage clients who are maybe reconsidering that path? As a consultant? Or as a specifier? Or an architect? How do you counsel your clients going through the process? And, you know, how do you guide through that entire process?
Sydney Covey 29:39
Yeah, so as a sustainability consultant and working with clients on the entire spectrum, right, the clients that know they want and go to after a LEED platinum building right out of the gate to ones that don't know, LEED is a rating system that can be used in their repertoire. I'm really always having a conversation about what's sustainable. It means to them. And I think that that unwavering commitment from our team at CODE really helped us ensure that even through a global pandemic, an unprecedented global pandemic, we still maintained that same thread, we were already all committed, and we didn't ever, we never had to think about that.
A lot of times, when clients don't connect with the rating system, they don't connect with the strategies the rating system is supporting, really find it a lot easier for them to fall off. Sometimes I have clients who are really, really obsessed with the indoor air quality, sometimes it's the charging stations, it's sometimes it's the bikes, it's pieces and parts that they really, really identify with. And I try to take them back to this idea that building that they are occupying, that they're living in, they're working in, they're playing in whatever it is, is the outward outward most piece to their identity and most physical piece of their identity, and what that means to them as a corporation, to their employees, to their potential clients or customers, and how that sustainability can really elevate that peace through rating system like LEED.
And I would say that the pandemic really helped push the conversation around healthy and WELL buildings. Because occupants really started to question what was going on inside of spaces, facility managers, and landlords had to answer those questions very honestly, they didn't have a choice. So I think through that added pressure, people really started to think about it, we didn't really think about the air particulates moving through the air as we talked, until we got to a pandemic, where that was life or death. But cleanliness of my building could be mean, occupants could live or die. And that was pretty serious. And so I think that because I'll never go back to looking at my indoor air quality the same.
Now we have tenants who are having that same questioning, they are questioning their owners and landlords, and they're demanding some answers. So there's a new concentrated effort to really think about indoor air quality. And I think that indoor air quality will be that gateway to talking about all the other pieces of sustainability, because it's not just one piece and component like Tyler had mentioned previously. And we're talking about sick building syndrome, we're talking about a multitude of things that could be factoring into that. One of the great ways you're preventing that is really productive ventilation. But then also it could be material selection, we don't know what those pieces and parts are. So holistic approach to that really means that we're having more conversations with clients about indoor air quality for one, then sustainability as kind of a holistic picture to that.
Jennifer Scheffel 32:35
Boy, you said something that I think we We don't think about a lot, or I don't think about a lot. And that is our personal identity within a space, we think about brand identity a lot. But we don't necessarily think of our personal identity within a building, we might think about it in our homes. I'm wondering, as an architect, how you design for the identity of the occupants, not just the brand. Maybe Kelsey wants to take this one.
So as architects, I think we absolutely approach brand and the human experience in sustainability as one, I don't think these things are separate. I don't think a human experience of a space or an interaction with a workspace like for this building, versus your experience of the outdoors versus your human health are separated things, I think, to be really good, effective design and a pleasant space for somebody to habitat, you have to be looking at these things as a holistic approach and ensuring that you're considering daylight and quality views and views to the outdoors and access to nature, as well as an energy efficient building, as well as a well lit space as well as good fresh air, and providing human interaction to foster a pleasant workspace and be really good architecture.
So it's an inseparable concept.
As architect our mode of work a lot of times is having to think about the whole spectrum of different separate components that have to work together in order for success to happen. I think one of the, you know, side effects of COVID has been an expansion of how we understand how things are interrelated. How one action causes another reaction, I think we have been in the spotlight a lot. And as architects, we live sort of in this mindset, a lot. And for me, the lead as a mechanism has been a thing that the client was initially interested in, because it's a tool to be able to quantify the efforts that they're making to their customers, basically. But it has the same effect from us and from our team, Sydney and Kelsey and I and our partner architects Wolf Ackerman, STRUCTR, our mechanical engineers 2RW; it gives us a language of being able to take all of the disparate things that we that we work together on and are oftentimes really complicated and have a lot of three letter acronyms and things like that. And it can boil it down to a scorecard. That's an easy way to communicate what we're doing. And that mechanism I've found is super valuable. An example of that is whenever we went we went through a value engineering process on this building.
Jennifer Scheffel 35:40
Sorry to interrupt Tyler, but for non specifiers and owners, what is value engineering?
Okay, so, um, ...you know, a project a Project Life Is that a client comes to an architect and the design team and says, Hi, I'd like a building that is able to do this. And then we say, Okay, we'll do it. And we, we start to figure out how it's going to be in what it's going to be. And then at a certain point, we get some cost information back. And if that cost, and if it's if it's going to be too expensive...We have to go intoa process that's referred to as value engineering or value management, which is basically. "how can we, how can we deliver the same things withoutwithout spending as much money?"
Easier said than done? Right?
So within the architecture, profession, Value Engineering is a common practice. But I think there's a big stigma around it, that it's just a way to cut budget and cut design. And a lot of times cut sustainability out of a project. There's a belief that these things all cost more. And through Value Engineering, you're just getting rid of it. Yeah. But I recently heard Mark ripple one of the principals of our firm, say in a team meeting that, at this point, you're you're no longer Value Engineering, you're just cutting scope. If as Tyler said, if you're truly value engineering, you're still delivering the same goals, the same experience the same sustainability, all of these things that were set out at the project startand still delivering that same experience, but for less money, it's not about taking something away. It's it's just being more effective with your money. And that's ultimately what comes down to the key word in this whole process, which is value and this project in particular, had such an unwavering client in their values of what they wanted the building to be for them for their community and for their tenants. So they were committed to every single aspect, even throughout the value engineering process. And we were really able to align and deliver a wonderful space and sustainable project
Right...You're engineering value, you're creating value. And thinking about it in a in a critical way, in engineering it. Like Kelsey says, we were just talking about this, at a certain point, you're not value engineering things, you're just cutting scope, the building isn't going to do the things that it's going to do. And that might be a way to get things done. And a lot of times it is but in this process, having Hourigan involved, throughout design really helped and having Sydney on board. And having the LEED scorecard being worked on, allowed us to, to quantify the changes that we were talking about making, we could look at a different envelopes system, and then be able to tell the client, okay, we can do this. But it's going to mean, we're going to lose X points.
LEED can feel like a scorecard you're trying to hit you're trying to just get above that threshold. But it also can translate, hey, not only are you going to lose points, that means your energy bill is going to be higher, you're going to have to use more water, you're not going to be doing as many of the good things that you had hoped and aspired to do at the beginning of the project.
Typically, you know, from a lead consultant perspective and a sustainability consultant prep perspective, Value Engineering is like where we live or die, because a lot of times sustainability is sacrificed. The conception is that lead or sustainability features in a project mean more money? And it's hard to have the conversation? Yeah, it's more, it's extra, it doesn't really, you know, it doesn't really fit. And that's when I say, you know, everybody starts out with this high goal of, you know, sustainability initiatives, and they somehow get lost, it's usually in a value engineering exercise where we lose the solar panels, we use the high performing envelope, we lose the material selection components.
And it got to the point with this owner, where we had really manifested ourselves in the process inside of the sustainability components that anytime they were gonna make a switch and a material they were asking, this is going to affect our lead points, this is gonna affect our lead points. And they were just installing the last bit of wallpaper the other day, and they were like, is this affecting our lead points, somehow? They have unwavering from that piece and that part, but they are the dream client in that regard? Because they're not, you know, they're not thinking that, Oh, we have to sacrifice the cost. And we have to sacrifice that piece, in part, you know, because it's too expensive. It's like been the exact opposite.
Jennifer Scheffel 40:27
Sydney, that brings up two really important questions: One, does sustainability always cost more? And two, how do you bake in sustainability in the design process? Before the value engineering process comes into play?
I would say from my perspective, being that I was kind of homegrown in the contractor realm now involved in a lot more of these conversations on what we can do. Anytime I get the question about if sustainability costs more, I always ask cost of what design construction operations are looking at things in a holistic way. And then a lifecycle we Yes, we design and build in a short amount of buildings life, but the life of the building, we're hoping is 100 to 200 years, or plus, I'm really like to have that conversation with owners design teams and contractors who are really going through this process of is it going to cost more money, I make this decision on a higher performing envelope. And yeah, it may cost today, it may cost you more to engineer it that way, or buy it that way. But my goodness, your energy bills are going to be reduced by X-amount over the next, you know, over the next 50 to 100 years. You're going to make it back on the first month or the first year, and whatever that is. We can't say "it's going to cost you know this much more, you know, we know it's going to cost 10% more, you know, we don't know that". And especially if you're talking about material cost and designing and engineering, the different systems, it doesn't always come a no cost. But again, cost to cost what
Good point Sydney. Now I want to switch to Kelsey's perspective regarding a conversation that we'd had before today about designing for sustainability in a way that isn't affected by the value engineering process.
So I think with a lot of approaches to sustainability, there's a really common belief as Sydney and Tyler both mentioned, that these things cost extra but the reality is so many of the big decisions, especially in a project like this, where we had a large open lot to work with so many of the decisions we make architecturally have a huge influence in sustainable. So early on in a schematic design phase, sustainability can be baked in through the way you orient a building to the floor plate design to the window wall ratio. And this project looked at all of those things early on through multiple iterations to come to the best result both to achieve a good space for the user, but to be mindful of orientation and floorplate.
I'm talking about floorplan because that's critical in the way that a space can be used efficiently for daylight. And for cross ventilation. Andwith the narrower a floor plate, the more daylight you can get to penetrate the building, which cuts back on your lighting load and makes people happier to see a space that's naturally lit instead of lit with artificial lighting. And this project, achieved a narrow floor plate by doing this kind of triangular plan orientation, and in that plan itself, shades itself as well, so that we're cutting back on overheating of the building, we were mindful with the way windows were placed, and how much glazing there is in the building. So that cuts back on your solar heat gain load from, from Sun penetrating the windows, all of those things are early project decisions made before Value Engineering is is even on the radar or down the pipeline from happening. So those things are baked in as sustainable design concepts and decisions that are made early on.
I think there's there's a lot that can be done just in the decision making process as well. I mean, I think about the massing of this building. This building is situated on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, which if you haven't been you should go visit. It's an amazing pedestrian mall. It's their Old Main Street, and it's just great. There's some really mature trees that have grown up. It's just a wonderful time. So it booked in this pedestrian mall. And so it was really important to us fundamentally, from the beginning from the interview of this project, Wolf Ackerman and ourselves, held that in the utmost importance, the character of the mall that we're adding to.
So the building starts as as a three story building on the Mall side. And it slowly steps up every floor and wraps around in a triangle. And it's nine storeys at the top, where it faces Water Street on the back where the buildings are already about that tall. So we're matching the site, we're respecting the site, we're taking a look at things that we take a look a lot a lot at in New Orleans being very sensitive to what's there already. What that means, though, is that this nine story mass happens to be on the south side of the site. So it shades, the building the rest of the buildings for a good portion of the day. And that those are the kind of things that we when we're looking at lead when we're already looking at the energy model.
We're saying, "Okay, this is a no brainer, we got to do this". It respects this character. But at the same time, we're going to get this added benefit of not having that direct harsh sun heating up our building, and having a need more air conditioning in it. Being really clear eyed about that the LEED process helps you be really clear in finding and keeping those decisions. By being able to look at all of its factors.
LEED can act as a framework to help you measure these goals. And these values that should have been baked in early that your client has discussed that the project team has discussed
Right, you've got one more mechanism.
So oftentimes goals are set out, but there's no way to measure and report them. But the LEED scorecard sets up a series of credit categories from location and transportation to materials and resources to energy and atmosphere and gives you ways to measure these values and these goals and then report them out. LEED oftentimes I think has a danger of people looking at it as a as a way to just chase points and claim sustainability. I prefer to think about LEED as a way to measure your sustainability and to measure your values and your goals. So they're oftentimes things that architects are or should be thinking about in the way that we design anyway. And LEED rewards you for how well you do them.
So LEED sets a threshold of are you getting this much solar daylight autonomy in your project? If you are great, here's a point for for doing good design. I like to think of it that way as a framework to measure how you're performing rather than a thing to chase toward. So daylight is a great one. The other number that I like to think of that is true directly related to daylight is window wall ratio. And a really good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to not go over 40% window wall ratio. And there's an interesting statistic I've heard. And I'd love to be able to point to the actual report of of that being critical in meeting a LEED Platinum level that projects have a lower window wall ratio, the higher the LEED standard, they are,
Well, let's let's talk about that a little bit more, because let's talk about I like this idea of talking about thick glass on the project. Kelsey, that's an interesting stat about the platinum buildings not being over 35% window wall ratio, because I think we're hitting the upper end of that. And we may even be a little bit better than that. It ties back to the massing we and the program of the building, the first two floors are co working. And they're meant to be this collaborative mixing space.
When we were designing this building, we took a look at the European influence of the palazzo block, the Italian palazzo block, three different sections, were in the bottom section, the piano rustico was always rusticated. It was like built and made to look very heavy in stone, it had very small windows with bars on them a lot of times, and that was to protect the building during the riots. And the building got more delicate up above.
So we've kind of flipped that here because we want to convey the sense of openness and connection on the ground levels at these co working levels at the place where the building presents itself to the public and invites the public in. So we do have a lot of glass on the first two levels. The self shading of the massing allowed us to do that without sacrificing energy performance.
So one thing to consider that this project did really successfully is a narrow floor plate. A narrow floor plate gives opportunity to fully daylight a space where the wider the building, the more difficult it is to provide daylight. So think of a Walmart or a big box store. You can't get daylight in that space unless you put skylights in the center of the building. Skylights are expensive, and a leaky roof hazard. The other most expensive part of the building is the envelope. That's where we spend the most money, we try to reduce the amount of envelopes. And one of the most expensive components in the envelope is glazing. And glazing is a wonderful thing to provide daylight, but it's often overused in architecture. And it's a great way to do better with energy efficiency.
What I mean by that is, curtain walls are expensive glass is expensive. And if we stick to a low window wall ratio, say 35%, we're actually cutting back on the cost of the material to design the building, and still providing better energy performance by not overheating it. And I think it also results in better architecture because you have to be strategic about where you're framing views about which direction the glass is facing to get morning sun an evening sunset. It forces you to be mindful and actually create a space that's responding to the environment, rather than just spending money on on a big glass building that has no relationship to where it is.
I would also add to obviously, we were an integrated project team. And I think that is really important because we can make design modifications, iterations, we can go back to quite literally the drawing board, redesign any thing that we want, before it gets built, and it costs significantly less in that stage than it does to change it down the road. Especially when we're talking about things like Tyler and Kelsey, were both just talking about massing the building, you can't change the mass of the building once you're halfway through. And so the more that you think about these things, and do bake them in early on number one, the harder it is to justify getting them out of there. And number two, the easier it is to look at the class associated with that. And you know, we're talking or only when we're only talking about a material selection, or we're only talking about, you know, reorienting the building on paper, it's a lot easier to make those kinds of adjustments.
Jennifer Scheffel 52:05
You all have really brought a lot of interesting information to the table to think about. We could just talk about this for hours. But sadly, we're coming to the end of this hour. So I wanted to ask each of you a question, the same question. What have you learned from working on CODE that you didn't previously know?
What I've learned most from CODE and a lot been able to see in you know, in real time is the power of collaboration and a really integratedteam, you know, I think that that was really that has really stuck with me and like the ability to have a project going through being built through a pandemic of, of all things, and still maintain all of those same levels of commitment, that same integration, that same drive to the same type of goals. And, really that it doesn't take, you know, it does take the right team, but it doesn't take extreme us amount of effort to actually achieve that level of commitment and integration, like we can all play that same role. And so, I think, you know, moving forward, I would love for, you know, the type of project team that we are, and the type of project that resulted from a collaborative and integrated team and a committed team for these things to not be so rare, right? Like, I feel like this is like a dream team and a dream project. And I hope that every single project at some point can be like this.
Awesome. Tyler, can you tell me something that you learned, you didn't know before?
The list of things that I didn't know before I learned this project that I know now is very long. This has been what I've been working on for the last four years, almost all the time, I'm really excited to see it open. For me, this issue of two degrees Celsius warming, the climate crisis that we're that we're facing, can sometimes feel really daunting buildings contribute 40% of annual emissions. So we have not only a huge burden and a huge responsibility, but a huge opportunity to change that number as architects. And this project has shown me that getting down into the details with Sydney, and with Kelsey making that change technically, on the on the elements of the building. And then summarizing that and bringing it back to people that aren't as deep down into the weeds has been incredibly rewarding. And it's a skill that I that I really want to keep cultivating and learn how to do better. I want more people to understand to the right extent, just how much everything is connected and how much our decision making can have impact. I think that's super powerful. And I think that's the way that we all get out of this is that we all have to understand it first.
Love it. Kelsey, same question, what have you learned working on CODE.
Working on code was a unique experience for me, because this was the first project I had been on that is reaching such a high target of LEED, I'll say hopefully as encouragement that it's pretty easy to study for a two hour test for your LEED Green Associate Certification. So as an individual, you get a really base level understanding of the rating system, going into a project that was pursuing platinum, it had all these layers that I had to understand and be really diligent about from a perspective of compliance in a material or to the way that you even document the design of the building. Like I talked about envelope and floor plate that had an implication for two different credits, they light and quality views, how LEED wants you to describe that design. It forced me to kind of rethink a feedback loop of how design works and how you speak about sustainable design concepts.
This project had such a strong team of trusted advisors, trusted clients, trusted manufacturers, it really just left me with a lot of uplift and hope in how the industry can move forward in a more holistic, sustainable way.
I love that each of you are hopeful and enthusiastic about the future of sustainability, and healthy building practices and design. We could just go on about this for hours. I've loved every minute of it. I want to thank you all for being here today and sharing your expertise with me.
Yeah, thanks, guys.
Thank you so much. It's really, really fun to talk about all this with everybody. And I just want to thank the whole team for all the work that went into this project because it was really educational and great fun, and it's a great building.
Absolutely. I'm almost sad to see it be done because then you know what to find the next one to work on together.
If you're ever in Charlottesville, Virginia checkout CODE, the Center for Developing Entrepreneurs located at 240 West Main Street, I'd like to thank Resource Lighting + Controls located in Chesapeake, Virginia for sponsoring today's episode of maker speak. Resource Lighting + Controls represents over 100 manufacturers of architectural lighting. If you are a specifier in the Tidewater area or have a project in the Tidewater area, check out their sustainable lighting manufacturers at www.resourceltg.com. Thank you for listening to Maker's Speak.